Wednesday, August 6, 2014
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Monday, March 10, 2014
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
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Bio...A political activist since his first year in college and his involvement in the Campaign of John F. Kennedy, Ed. is now a full time Political Consultant since retiring from a 31 year career as an American History and Political Science Instructor, during which he was repeatedly recognized and awarded for his excellence in teaching and research, having been awarded "The Ashland Teacher of The Year Teacher Achievement Award” in 1989.
Having held elective office at every level of the teaching profession: local, district, state and national, Ed. has established and outstanding reputation in the labor movement community.
An Experienced Campaign director and manager, Ed. has built campaign organizations, (Candidate and Issues), from the ground up including: total strategy planning, campaign planning, design, development, staffing, training, organization, fund raising, personnel selection and recruitment, communications (including press, radio, TV, literature development and speech writing) and successful execution.
Educated at Central Connecticut State University, The New York Institute of Photography and Kent State University he has maintained a life long involvement in Photography with several awards and public exhibitions in addition to published work.
His legendary ability to analyze campaign progress and to evaluate polling data and call elections precinct by precinct has earned him the nickname "The Precinct Master".
Posted by Ed Dickau at 5:27 AM
Monday, August 6, 2012
Military's plans to quell "Tea Party insurrection"
Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A “Vision” of the Future:
“Combat units will conduct overt Show of Force operations to remind the insurrectionists they are now facing professional military forces, with all the training and equipment that implies…”
The U.S. Army’s Operating Concept 2016-2028 was issued in August 2010 with three goals. First, it aims to portray how future Army forces will conduct operations as part of a joint force to deter conflict, prevail in war, and succeed in a range of contingencies, at home and abroad. Second, the concept describes the employment of Army forces at the tactical and operational levels of war between 2016 and 2028. Third, in broad terms the concept describes how Army headquarters, from theater army to division, organize and use their forces. The concept goes on to describe the major categories of Army operations, identify the capabilities required of Army forces, and guide how force development should be prioritized. The goal of this concept is to establish a common frame of reference for thinking about how the US Army will conduct full spectrum operations in the coming two decades (US Army Training and Doctrine Command, The Army Operating Concept 2016 – 2028, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, dated 19 August 2010, p. iii. Hereafter cited as TD Pam 525-3-1. The Army defines full spectrum operations as the combination of offensive, defensive, and either stability operations overseas or civil support operations on U.S. soil).
A key and understudied aspect of full spectrum operations is how to conduct these operations within American borders. If we face a period of persistent global conflict as outlined in successive National Security Strategy documents, then Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil. Army capstone and operating concepts must provide guidance concerning how the Army will conduct the range of operations required to defend the republic at home. In this paper, we posit a scenario in which a group of political reactionaries take over a strategically positioned town and have the tacit support of not only local law enforcement but also state government officials, right up to the governor. Under present law, which initially stemmed from bad feelings about Reconstruction, the military’s domestic role is highly circumscribed. In the situation we lay out below, even though the governor refuses to seek federal help to quell the uprising (the usual channel for military assistance), the Constitution allows the president broad leeway in times of insurrection. Citing the precedents of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and Dwight D. Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock in 1957, the president mobilizes the military and the Department of Homeland Security, to regain control of the city. This scenario requires us to consider how domestic intelligence is gathered and shared, the role of local law enforcement (to the extent that it supports the operation), the scope and limits of the Insurrection Act--for example maintaining a military chain of command but in support of the Attorney General as the Department of Justice is the Lead Federal Agency (LFA) under the conditions of the Act--and the roles of the local, national, and international media.
The Scenario (2016)
The Great Recession of the early twenty-first century lasts far longer than anyone anticipated. After a change in control of the White House and Congress in 2012, the governing party cuts off all funding that had been dedicated to boosting the economy or toward relief. The United States economy has flatlined, much like Japan’s in the 1990s, for the better part of a decade. By 2016, the economy shows signs of reawakening, but the middle and lower-middle classes have yet to experience much in the way of job growth or pay raises. Unemployment continues to hover perilously close to double digits, small businesses cannot meet bankers’ terms to borrow money, and taxes on the middle class remain relatively high. A high-profile and vocal minority has directed the public’s fear and frustration at nonwhites and immigrants. After almost ten years of race-baiting and immigrant-bashing by right-wing demagogues, nearly one in five Americans reports being vehemently opposed to immigration, legal or illegal, and even U.S.-born nonwhites have become occasional targets for mobs of angry whites.
In May 2016 an extremist militia motivated by the goals of the “tea party” movement takes over the government of Darlington, South Carolina, occupying City Hall, disbanding the city council, and placing the mayor under house arrest. Activists remove the chief of police and either disarm local police and county sheriff departments or discourage them from interfering. In truth, this is hardly necessary. Many law enforcement officials already are sympathetic to the tea party’s agenda, know many of the people involved, and have made clear they will not challenge the takeover. The militia members are organized and have a relatively well thought-out plan of action.
With Darlington under their control, militia members quickly move beyond the city limits to establish “check points” – in reality, something more like choke points -- on major transportation lines. Traffic on I-95, the East Coast’s main north-south artery; I-20; and commercial and passenger rail lines are stopped and searched, allegedly for “illegal aliens.” Citizens who complain are immediately detained. Activists also collect “tolls” from drivers, ostensibly to maintain public schools and various city and county programs, but evidence suggests the money is actually going toward quickly increasing stores of heavy weapons and ammunition. They also take over the town web site and use social media sites to get their message out unrestricted.
When the leaders of the group hold a press conference to announce their goals, they invoke the Declaration of Independence and argue that the current form of the federal government is not deriving its “just powers from the consent of the governed” but is actually “destructive to these ends.” Therefore, they say, the people can alter or abolish the existing government and replace it with another that, in the words of the Declaration, “shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” While mainstream politicians and citizens react with alarm, the “tea party” insurrectionists in South Carolina enjoy a groundswell of support from other tea party groups, militias, racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, anti-immigrant associations such as the Minutemen, and other right-wing groups. At the press conference the masked militia members’ uniforms sport a unit seal with a man wearing a tricorn hat and carrying a musket over the motto “Today’s Minutemen.” When a reporter asked the leaders who are the “red coats” the spokesman answered, “I don’t know who the redcoats are…it could be federal troops.” Experts warn that while these groups heretofore have been considered weak and marginal, the rapid coalescence among them poses a genuine national threat.
The mayor of Darlington calls the governor and his congressman. He cannot act to counter the efforts of the local tea party because he is confined to his home and under guard. The governor, who ran on a platform that professed sympathy with tea party goals, is reluctant to confront the militia directly. He refuses to call out the National Guard. He has the State Police monitor the roadblocks and checkpoints on the interstate and state roads but does not order the authorities to take further action. In public the governor calls for calm and proposes talks with the local tea party to resolve issues. Privately, he sends word through aides asking the federal government to act to restore order. Due to his previous stance and the appearance of being “pro” tea party goals the governor has little political room to maneuver.
The Department of Homeland Security responds to the governor’s request by asking for defense support to civil law enforcement. After the Department of Justice states that the conditions in Darlington and surrounding areas meet the conditions necessary to invoke the Insurrection Act, the President invokes it.
(From Title 10 US Code the President may use the militia or Armed Forces to:
§ 331 – Suppress an insurrection against a State government at the request of the Legislature or, if not in session, the Governor.
§ 332 – Suppress unlawful obstruction or rebellion against the U.S.
§ 333 – Suppress insurrection or domestic violence if it (1) hinders the execution of the laws to the extent that a part or class of citizens are deprived of Constitutional rights and the State is unable or refuses to protect those rights or (2) obstructs the execution of any Federal law or impedes the course of justice under Federal laws.)
By proclamation he calls on the insurrectionists to disperse peacefully within 15 days. There is no violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. The President appoints the Attorney General and the Department of Justice as the lead federal agency to deal with the crisis. The President calls the South Carolina National Guard to federal service. The Joint Staff in Washington, D.C., alerts U.S. Northern Command, the headquarters responsible for the defense of North America, to begin crisis action planning. Northern Command in turn alerts U.S. Army North/Fifth U.S. Army for operations as a Joint Task Force headquarters. Army units at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Marines at Camp Lejuene, N.C. go on alert. The full range of media, national and international, is on scene.
“Fix Darlington, but don’t destroy it!”
Upon receiving the alert for possible operations in Darlington, the Fifth Army staff begins the military decision making process with mission analysis and intelligence preparation of the battlefield. (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield is the term applied to the procedures performed by the intelligence staff of all Army unit headquarters in the development of bases of information on the enemy, terrain and weather, critical buildings and facilities in a region and other points. Army units conduct operations on the basis of this information. The term is in Army doctrine and could be problematic when conducted in advance of operations on U.S. soil. The general form of the initial intelligence estimate is in figure 1.) In developing the intelligence estimate military intelligence planners will confront the first constraints on the conduct of full spectrum operations in the United States, as well as constraints on supporting law enforcement. The analytical steps of the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, or IPB, must be modified in preparing for and conducting operations in the homeland.
The steps of the IPB process are: define the operational environment/battlespace, describe environmental effects on operations/describe battlespace effects, evaluate the threat/adversary, and determine threat/adversary courses of action. (PSYOP was changed to Military Information Support Operations, MISO, by Secretary of Defense directive in June 2010.)
While preparing terrain and weather data do not pose a major problem to the G-2, gathering data on the threat and under civil considerations for intelligence and operational purposes is problematic to say the least.
Estimate (FM 2-01.3, p. 7, chapter 1)
Executive Order 12333, United States Intelligence Activities, dated 4 December 1981, relates mostly to intelligence gathering outside the continental United States. However, it also outlines in broad terms permissible information-gathering within the United States and on American citizens and permanent resident aliens, categorized as United States persons. (The executive order included in its definition of “United States persons” unincorporated associations mostly comprising American citizens or permanent resident aliens; or a corporation incorporated in the United States, except for a corporation directed and controlled by a foreign government or governments. The basic thrust of the rules and regulations concerning intelligence collection and dissemination are focused on protecting American citizens’ Constitutional rights. These rules and regulations are focused, properly, on support to law enforcement. They do not contain much guidance concerning the conduct of full spectrum operations such as the situation facing the corps. While the best practice as described in FM 3-28 is to retain just enough for situational awareness and force protection the situation facing the corps strains the limits of situational awareness and could place the G2 and commanders at some risk once the dust has settled in the aftermath of an operation within the homeland.) The Fifth Army intelligence analysts will have a great deal of difficulty determining tea party members’ legal status. Because the Defense Department does not collect or store information on American civilians or civilian groups during peacetime, the military will have to rely on local and state law enforcement officials at the start of operations to establish intelligence data-bases and ultimately restore the rule of law in Darlington.
Using all intelligence disciplines from human intelligence to signals intelligence, the Fifth Army G2 and his staff section will collect as much information as they need to accomplish the mission. Once the rule of law is restored the Fifth Army G2 must ensure that it destroys information gathered during the operation within 90 days unless the law or the Secretary of Defense requires the Fifth Army to keep it for use in legal cases (Field Manual 3-28, Civil Support Operations, pp. 7-13. The FM cites Department of Defense Directive, DODD, 5200.27). Because of the legal constraints on the military’s involvement in domestic affairs and the sympathies of local law enforcement, developing the initial intelligence, a continuing estimate, and potential adversary courses of action (what the insurrectionists holding Darlington and surrounding areas might do in response to Army operations) will be difficult. (The closest guidance on handling information collected in the course of civil disturbance operations is in Department of Defense Directive 5200.27 and Department of Defense Directive 5240.1R. These directives state: “Operations Related to Civil Disturbance. The Attorney General is the chief civilian officer in charge of coordinating all federal government activities relating to civil disturbances. Upon specific prior authorization of the Secretary of Defense or his designee, information may be acquired that is essential to meet operational requirements flowing from the mission as to DOD to assist civil authorities in dealing with civil disturbances. Such authorization will only be granted when there is a distinct threat of a civil disturbance exceeding the law enforcement capabilities of State and local authorities.”)
Fifth Army terrain analysts continue using open sources ranging from Google maps to Map-quest. Federal legal restrictions on assembling databases remain in effect and even incidental imagery, aerial photos gathered in the conduct of previously conducted training missions, cannot be used. Surveillance of the tea party roadblocks and checkpoints around Darlington proceeds carefully. Developing legal data-bases is one effort, but support for local law enforcement is hindered because of problems in determining how to share this information and with whom.
Despite these problems, receiving support from local law enforcement is critical to restoring the rule of law in Darlington. City police officers, county sheriff deputies and state troopers can contribute valuable local knowledge of personalities, customs and terrain beyond what can be found in data-bases and observation. Liaison officers and non-commissioned officers, with appropriate communications equipment must be exchanged. Given the suspicion that local police are sympathetic to the tea party members’ goals special consideration to operational security must be incorporated into planning. Informally communicating to the insurrectionists the determination of federal forces to restore local government can materially improve the likelihood of success. However, informants sympathetic to the tea party could easily compromise the element of surprise. The fact that a federal court must authorize wire taps in every instance also complicate the monitoring of communications into and out of Darlington. Operations in Darlington specifically and in the homeland generally must also take into account the possibility of increased violence and the range of responses to violence.
All federal military forces involved in civil support must follow the standing rules for the use of force (SRUF) specified by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Much like the rules of force issued to the 7th Infantry Division during operations in Los Angeles in 1992 the underlying principle involves a continuum of force, a graduated level of response determined by civilians' behavior. Fifth Army must assume that every incident of gunfire will be investigated. (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction, CJCSI, 3121.01B, Standing Rules of Engagement/Standing Rules for the Use of Force for US Forces. There are many similarities between rules for the use of force and rules of engagement, the right of self-defense for example. The fundamental difference is rules of engagement are by nature permissive measures intended to allow the maximum use of destructive combat power appropriate for the mission. Rules for the use of force are restrictive measures intended to allow only the minimum force necessary to accomplish the mission.) All units involved must also realize that operations will be conducted under the close scrutiny of the media.
Operating under media scrutiny is not a new phenomenon for the U.S. military. What is new and newsworthy about this operation is that it is taking place in the continental United States. Commanders and staffs must think about the effect of this attention and be alert when considering how to use the media. The media will broadcast the President’s proclamation and cover military preparations for operations in Darlington. Their reports will be as available to tea party leaders in Darlington as they are to a family watching the evening news in San Francisco. Coupled with a gradual build-up of federal forces in the local area, all covered by the media, the effect of this pressure will compound over time and quite possibly cause doubt about the correctness of the events in Darlington in the minds of its’ citizens and the insurrectionists who control the town. The Joint Task Force commander, staff and subordinate units must operate as transparently as possible, while still giving due consideration to operational security. Commanders must manage these issues even as they increase pressure on the insurrectionists.
The design of this plan to restore the rule of law to Darlington will include information/influence operations designed to present a picture of the federal response and the inevitable defeat of the insurrection. The concept of the joint plan includes a phased deployment of selected forces into the area beginning with reconnaissance and military intelligence units. Once the Fifth Army commander determines he has a complete picture of activity within the town and especially of the insurrectionists’ patterns of behavior, deployment of combat, combat support and combat service support forces will begin from Forts Bragg and Stewart, and Camp Lejuene. Commanders will need to consider how the insurrectionists will respond. Soldiers and Marines involved in this operation, and especially their families will be subject to electronic mail, Facebook messages, Twitters, and all manner of information and source of pressure. Given that Soldiers and Marines stationed at Forts Bragg and Stewart as well as Camp Lejuene live relatively nearby and that many come from this region, chances are they will know someone who lives in or near Darlington. Countering Al Qaeda web-based propaganda is one thing, countering domestic information bombardments is another effort entirely.
The design and execution of operations to restore the rule of law in Darlington will be complicated. The Fifth Army will retain a military chain of command for regular Army and Marine Corps units along with the federalized South Carolina National Guard, but will be in support of the Department of Justice as the Lead Federal Agency, LFA. The Attorney General may designate a Senior Civilian Representative of the Attorney General (SCRAG) to coordinate the efforts of all Federal agencies. The SCRAG has the authority to assign missions to federal military forces. The Attorney General may also appoint a Senior Federal Law Enforcement Officer (SFLEO) to coordinate all Federal law enforcement activities.
The pace of the operation needs to be deliberate and controlled. Combat units will conduct overt Show of Force operations to remind the insurrectionists they are now facing professional military forces, with all the training and equipment that implies. Army and Marine units will remove road blocks and check points both overtly and covertly with minimum essential force to ratchet up pressure continually on insurrectionist leadership. Representatives of state and local government as well as federalized South Carolina National Guard units will care for residents choosing to flee Darlington. A focus on the humanitarian aspect of the effort will be politically more palatable for the state and local officials. Federal forces continue to tighten the noose as troops seize and secure power and water stations, radio and TV stations, and hospitals. The final phase of the operation, restoring order and returning properly elected officials to their offices, will be the most sensitive.
Movements must be planned and executed more carefully than the operations that established the conditions for handover. At this point military operations will be on the downturn but the need for more politically aware military advice will not. War, and the use of federal military force on U.S. soil, remains an extension of policy by other means. Given the invocation of the Insurrection Act, the federal government must defeat the insurrection, preferably with minimum force. Insurrectionists and their sympathizers must have no doubt that an uprising against the Constitution will be defeated. Dealing with the leaders of the insurrection can be left to the proper authorities, but drawing from America history, military advice would suggest an amnesty for individual members of the militia and prosecution for leaders of the movement who broke the law. This fictional scenario leads not to conclusions but points to ponder when considering 21st century full spectrum operations in the continental United States.
The Insurrection Act does not need to be changed for the 21st century. Because it is broadly written, the law allows the flexibility needed to address a range of threats to the Republic.
What we must consider in the design of homeland defense or security exercises is translating the Act into action. The Army Operating Concept describes Homeland Defense as the protection of “U.S. sovereignty, territory, domestic population, and critical defense infrastructure against external threats and aggression, or other threats as directed by the president” (TD Pam 525-3-1, p. 27. Emphasis added.) Neither the operating concept nor recently published Army doctrine, FM 3-28 Civil Support Operations, goes into detail when considering the range of “other threats.” While invoking the Insurrection Act must be a last resort, once it is put into play Americans will expect the military to execute without pause and as professionally as if it were acting overseas. The Army cannot disappoint the American people, especially in such a moment. While real problems and real difficulties of such operations may not be perceived until the point of execution preparation will afford the Army the ability to not be too badly wrong at the outset.
Being not too badly wrong at the outset requires focused military education on the nuances of operations in the homeland. Army doctrine defines full spectrum operations as a mix of offense, defense and either stability or civil support operations. Curriculum development is a true zero sum game; when a subject is added another must be removed. Given the array of threats and adversaries; from “commando-style” raids such as Mumbai, the changing face of militias in the United States, rising unrest in Mexico, and the tendency to the extreme in American politics the subject of how American armed forces will conduct security and defense operations within the continental U.S. must be addressed in the curricula of our Staff and War Colleges. (The Kansas City Star, 12 September 2010, “The New Militia.” The front page story concerns the changing tactics of militia movements and how militias now focus on community service and away from violence against the government. Law enforcement agencies feel this is camouflage for true intentions. The story covered armed paramilitary militias in Missouri and Kansas.)
The Army must address the how to of intelligence/information gathering and sharing, liaison with local law enforcement and conduct of Information Operations in focused exercises, such as UNIFIED QUEST, given a wider range of invited participants. The real question of how to educate the Army on full spectrum operations under homeland security and defense conditions must be a part of an overall review of professional military education for the 21st century. We cannot discount the agility of an external threat, the evolution of Al Qaeda for example, and its ability to take advantage of a “Darlington event” within U.S. borders. How would we respond to this type of action? What if border violence from Mexico crosses into the United States? The pressure for action will be enormous and the expectation of professional, disciplined military action will be equally so given the faith the American people have in their armed forces. The simple fact is that while the Department of Justice is the Lead Federal Agency in these operations the public face of the operation will be uniformed American Soldiers. On a TV camera a civilian is a civilian but here is no mistaking the mottled battle dress of a Soldier with the U.S. flag on his or her right sleeve.
The table of organization and equipment of Fifth U.S. Army/Army North must be scrutinized. The range of liaison parties that must be exchanged in the conduct of operations on American soil is extensive. Coordination with federal, state and local civil law enforcement and security agencies is a vital element in concluding homeland operations successfully. The liaison parties cannot be ad hoc or last minute additions to the headquarters. At a minimum such parties must routinely exercise with the headquarters.
In 1933 then Colonel George Marshall criticized the education that the Army Command and General Staff College provided as inadequate to “the chaotic state of affairs in the first few months of a campaign with a major power” (From a 1933 letter from COL GC Marshall to MG Stewart Heintzelman, cited in a report on the US Army Command and General Staff College conducted in 1982 by MG Guy Meloy. The report is held in the Special Collections section of the Combined Arms Research Library, Fort Leavenworth, KS.) We must continue on the path of ensuring the avoidance of the “chaotic state of affairs” in the opening moments of future campaigns, defending the nation from within and without. As Dr. Sebastian L. v. Gorka wrote in Joint Forces Quarterly (p. 33), “[N]o concepts are immune to critique and reappraisal when it comes to securing the homeland.”
Glass-Stegall was the law implemented during the first depression to keep investment banks from becoming commercial banks & causing another depression. Which is exactly what happened when it was repealed,turning Wall St. into a casino with Goldman Sachs & the Fed Reserve acting as the house.
The house never loses.
We did and we have not had the gonads to stand up and really fight/strike back. I don't think there is a statute of limitations on this. What they've done is treasonous.
A Cabinet nominee or a Supreme Court nominee produces decades of tax returns to the Senate for confirmation. Romney should meet that criteria.
The deduction for the horse included over $2,000 in medical expenses. Medical expenses are not deductible for taxpayers unless they exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income. In Romney’s world, horses are more valuable than people.
Obviously, Romney will not produce his tax returns because he knows what’s in them is more damaging that the static he will take for not releasing them.
At law, if a person is control of evidence refuses to produce the evidence, then the jury is instructed that there is a presumption that the evidence would be against the party failing to produce. It is called the “Missing Evidence” instruction.
What is silliest for Romney is that he and his aides continue to talk about Harry Reid. One aide compared Reid’s actions to McCarthyism. Reid has not accused Romney of any wrongdoing. McCarthy called Americans traitors and ruined their careers.
Romney’s failure to disclose on his tax returns is consistent with his lifelong secrecy. After a motor vehicle accident in France in which a passenger in Romney’s car is said to have been killed, he allegedly swore everyone to secrecy. No one knows why Mitt Romney got a rare missionary deferment during the Vietnam War– deferment in which he lived in a palace and converted no one.
The records from the Salt Lake City Olympics are unavailable. Mitt bought new computers at the end of his term as governor in Massachusetts. The computers and their memories of his term as governor are gone.
There is a pattern of secrecy. It is consistent with his fundamental intellectual dishonesty. He reminds me of Richard Nixon.
Absent some game changing VP selection or collapse of the economy, this race is over. I put little value in summer polls, but the recent CBS poll indicated that among likely voters in swing states that 90% of the voters have made up their minds and are unlikely to change it. Obama has stopped spending in Pennsylvania. States like NC, MO and IN are coming more into play. Romney is going to campaign in Indiana next week. If you are a Republican and you are campaigning in Indiana in August, you are in trouble.
John Sullivan is an Indianapolis attorney who has been active in politics since 1968. He is a former Chairperson of the Indiana Recount Commission and Vice President of the Marion County Convention Center and Recreational Facilities Commission. He was the Democratic nominee for Mayor of Indianapolis and has run the Indiana presidential campaigns for a number of Democratic candidates. He has also been elected delegate to several Democratic National Conventions since 1984. He worked in Congress in the early 1970s for Rep. Michael Harrington (D-MA).
THAT’S NOT GOING TO PLAY WELL IN OHIO….
Last week, we learned that nothing will ever improve President Obama’s image in the world more than Mitt Romney traveling abroad. Mitt insulted all of London, praised socialized medicine in Israel and brought along an aide who told reporters to “Kiss my ass!” at a holy site in Poland. The lesson was: When your schtick only appeals to people who hate the President of the United States, it’s hard to be diplomatic.
Mitt then returned home from that mess to face the biggest mess of his campaign: taxes.
No, not the controversy around his tax returns. Though you probably know that Harry Reid, who happens to be the highest-ranking Mormon in the U.S. government, publically accused Mitt of not paying any taxes for the last ten years. This accusation, the Senate Majority Leader claimed, was based on information from a very credible investor in Bain Capital. Now making accusations based on hearsay is a low down, dirty honey badger tactic, no doubt. (It’s a tactic so low down and dirty that it’s reminiscent of how Mitt demanded that Ted Kennedy release his tax returns in 1994 and that his opponent’s spouse release his returns in the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial primary — while refusing to release his own.)
Actually, Mitt’s real mess is his tax plan—which we now know would raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans. A new study by the Tax Policy Center pointed out that Mitt’s plan includes massive tax breaks for the richest Americans while leaving middle class families to pay up to $2,000 more a year.
Suddenly Mitt’s incredibly low 14 percent personal tax rate on an income of over $20 million a year became more than a talking point about fairness. It was an example of the kind of tax policy he believes in: Millionaires like him need more tax cuts and the middle class needs to pay for them.
And suddenly, Mitt needed to distract attention from his new status as a Republican nominee proposing to raise taxes on the middle class. What to do?
First, attack the group that produced the study — which is a group you once praised as “objective” and “non-partisan.” When that doesn’t work, change the subject.
What did Mitt decide to change the subject to? The auto industry. Romney released an ad Thursday that blamed the President for a GM dealership closing. What the ad didn’t mention is that if Mitt Romney had his way, there would be no GM dealerships in America any more.
Yes, Mitt is now past the point of taking credit for an auto rescue he opposed. He is now saying that he would have saved more dealerships.
This is why Mitt is one of the most unlikable presidential contenders on record. He rejects the one useful accomplishment of his life—Romneycare. At the same time, he says the President can’t run on his record and then tries to run on the President’s record of saving the auto industry.
Mitt Romney taking credit for the auto rescue is like John McCain taking credit for keeping Sarah Palin out of the White House. It’s like the Coyote taking credit for the Roadrunner’s good health. It’s like Al Gore taking credit for hotter summers.
In 2008, only one national figure opposed the rescue of the auto industry: Mitt Romney. In an op-ed he placed in the New York Times charitably headlined “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Mitt wrote, “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” It was an easy position to take because at that point, government bailouts were less popular than even George W. Bush and Bernie Madoff.
Mitt wanted private equity firms like his own Bain Capital to finance managed bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, while global markets were crumbling. The problem was that firms like Bain refused to do so. So the government stepped in. The Obama Administration then took over the rescue.
Three years later, the rebirth of the auto industry has sparked an economic renewal in Ohio and Michigan that no one anticipated.
Yes, Ohio and Michigan. Romney can’t win the election without Ohio, a state that history says no Republican can lose in a successful presidential campaign. And if he wins Michigan, one of his home states, his election would be guaranteed. These are the two states that had the most to lose if the auto industry had disappeared and took one of every eight American jobs with it.
Mitt’s campaign is a mess, but he won’t sink below 45-46 percent of the vote because he has already been spent close to a billion dollars to slander this President. But if he’s counting on the voters of Ohio and Michigan to ignore the tax increases he’s proposing for the middle class or to forget where Mitt stood when they needed him most, he’s only fooling himself.
By the year 2018, the manufacturing industry will lose 1.2 million jobs, the mining and oil/gas extraction industry will lose another 104,000 jobs and utility companies will lose 59,000 jobs, according to the.
Have you ever thought about getting your food out of a trash can?
Dumpster diving has become a hot new trend in America. In fact, dumpster divers even have a trendy new name -- "freegans" -- and as the economy crumbles their numbers are multiplying.
Many freegans consider dumpster diving to be a great way to save money on groceries. Others do it because they want to live more simply. Freegans that are concerned about the environment view dumpster diving as a great way to "recycle" and other politically-minded freegans consider dumpster diving to be a form of political protest.
[Click here to read the New York Times article, "The Freegan Establishment"]
Mitt and Ann Romney were easily able to afford a $12-million La Jolla home.
But that didn't insulate them from the winds buffeting the real estate market in the months following their purchase in 2008.
After paying cash for the Mediterranean-style house with 61 feet of beach frontage, they asked San Diego County for dramatic property tax relief.
Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee for president whose wealth is estimated at $250 million, has rejected calls from Democrats and Republicans to release his income tax returns prior to 2010. But San Diego County assessor records shed light on one sliver of the couple's personal taxes during that time: a months-long effort to reduce their annual property tax bill.
Initially, the Romneys asked that their 2009 assessment, $12.24 million, be reduced to $6.8 million, maintaining that their home had lost about 45% of its value in the first seven months they owned it.
Thirteen months later, after hiring an attorney to guide them, the Romneys filed an amended appeal, contending the home had suffered a less-dramatic fall of 27.3%, to $8.9 million.
They also filed an appeal for the 2010 tax year, claiming the house had dropped further, to $7.5 million, 38.7% less than the home's assessed value.
As a result, the Romneys have saved about $109,000 in property taxes over four years.
They were far from alone in seeking a reduction. Since the real estate market crashed, about 250,000 San Diego County homes have been reassessed at lower values, sometimes at the owner's request and other times at the county's initiative.
The Romney campaign referred all questions about their La Jolla property taxes to Matthew A. Peterson, a lobbyist and attorney who helped the Romneys find the home. He has also guided them through the complex permit process for demolishing the home and rebuilding on the site.
Referring to their initial claim, Peterson said he did not know how the Romneys determined that their house value had fallen so dramatically, but he thought they may have been reacting to dismal news reports. In any case, he said, they were not required to file documentation at the beginning.
The assessor has two years to act, and while an application is pending, Peterson said, "You hire a lawyer, a team of appraisers, and you come up with a realistic value, then file a realistic appeal."
But "once I got involved," Peterson said, "the tax assessor's office was pretty darned aggressive determining the value."
Property values were dropping in La Jolla's 92037 ZIP Code, as in other places, around the time the Romneys bought into the neighborhood. World financial markets were in turmoil, and uncertainty rocked previously stable U.S. real estate.
To buttress their claims, the Romneys used La Jolla appraiser John Streb, who specializes in seven-figure homes.
Assessing a home such as the Romneys' is complicated, Streb said. There are a limited number of beachfront properties and they vary dramatically in size and quality.
The home next door to the south, at 325 Dunemere Drive, was purchased by one of Mitt Romney's best friends, Kansas City meatpacking billionaire John Miller and his wife, Victoria, for $16.5 million two months before the Romneys bought the home at 311 Dunemere.
But the Miller home is a historic property. In exchange for a dramatically lower assessment and taxes, the owners agree not to change the exterior, according to Cathy Winterrowd, principal planner for San Diego's Historical Resources Board.
Once owned by the late actor Cliff Robertson, the Miller home is assessed at only $1.74 million, according to county records, a fraction of its value. Rather than paying annual taxes of about $165,000, which one would expect for a $16.5-million home, the Millers pay $18,846.
The home on the north side of the Romneys, at 310 Dunemere, was also an unsuitable comparison, even though it had changed hands just before Streb's appraisal. Purchased as a short sale for $2.4 million in 2010, the home was quickly assessed at $4.5 million by the county, which claimed the sale price did not accurately reflect the home's market value. In that case, the property taxes nearly doubled, said the home's owner, Jeff Lepore.
Analyst Andrew LePage of the real estate metrics service DataQuick said there was no question La Jolla home prices had dropped since 2008, but that beachfront property usually holds its value better than other properties.
Working for the Romneys, Streb concluded that the entire 92037 ZIP Code had suffered a 41% decline in average sales prices between the first six months of 2008 and the six months preceding his appraisal in October 2010. He settled on a value of $7.5 million for the Romney home.
The San Diego County Assessment Appeals Board agreed that the value of the Romney home had dropped, but not by nearly as much as Streb claimed.
On Feb. 23, 2011, the board reduced the 2009 assessment by $800,000, to $11.4 million, lowering the tax bill to $125,291 from $134,909.
The 2010 assessment was reduced to $10 million, with a corresponding drop in taxes to $110,180 from $134,535.
For the 2011 tax year, the Romneys did not have to apply for a reduction, said Jeffrey Olson, division chief of assessment services for the assessor's office. The county is legally required to reassess a property automatically once it has been reduced. The county reduced the Romneys' assessment to $8.7 million. Their property tax bill for the year was $96,843 and is likely to be the same for 2012, Olson said.
From its 2009 assessed value of $12.24 million, their home has dropped 29%.
(Since purchasing their Chicago home in 2005 for $1.65 million, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, have paid annual taxes that started at about $22,000 and have risen to nearly $27,000 this year.)
Had the Romneys never applied for a reassessment, they may have received one anyway because San Diego County has taken what it calls a proactive approach to assessments after the real estate downturn.
While they could have kept fighting for a lower assessment, Peterson said, they chose not to.
"As soon as the assessor's staff came up with that number, I said, 'Well, that's significantly higher than fair market value. Do you want to proceed with a formal hearing, and they said, 'No, if that's what the assessor thinks, that's what we will go with,' " Peterson recalled.
While the low-six-figure savings may not seem like much to the Romneys, "I would think it's foolish not to request a decline in value if you are entitled," said Paul Habibi, who teaches real estate finance and development in the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management. "That's like saying a rich man should not bend over to pick up a hundred dollar bill."
Mitt Romney doesn’t deny making a fortune investing in companies that outsourced jobs to Mexico and China—he just says there’s “no evidence” he was in charge at that point. But newly disclosed documents show Romney was Bain’s sole stockholder, CEO, and Chairman when jobs were shipped overseas. Here’s the evidence—take a look, then share it with your friends.
Good news — the Syrian rebels are mellowing! McClatchy news agency reports from the front lines:
“Abu Abdullah said that the [rebel military] council had ordered the executions of some 150 men since the beginning of the conflict, but that the rate had declined as the rebels feel the neighborhood is ‘cleaned’ of pro-regime elements.
“’In the beginning, we would execute 10 or 15 men a week,’ he said. “Now it’s closer to one every 10 or 20 days.’”
That’s what I call progress. Before you know it, they’ll go to monthly executions. Maybe they’ll even stop putting prisoners in cars rigged with explosives and then detonating the vehicle remotely when it approaches a government checkpoint — another charming practice noted by McClatchy. But don’t get your hopes up….
So barbarous are these “rebels” that they record their atrocities for posterity by making videos and posting them on YouTube: they expect the world to applaud them rather than step back in horror. Over at the US State Department, they aren’t exactly applauding, but then again neither are they backing off their support for the “Free Syrian Army”: “We condemn actions like that,” said Jay Carney, former Obama shill at Time magazine and now the official White House spokesman, “but [he] quickly added that Syrian government forces have perpetrated “the overwhelming amount of violence in Syria.”
Just wait until the rebels get in power: they’ll soon match — and perhaps outstrip — the atrocities the Assad family has committed in its decades of dictatorship. Summary executions, the “cleansing” of neighborhoods, the car bombs, the imposition of Sharia law on the “liberated” areas — the Islamist reign of terror in Syria has just begun, and you are paying for it with your tax dollars. Remember that when tax time comes along.
Yes, the US government “condemns” these monsters, but they’re footing the bill for the insurrection, championing the rebels in international diplomatic forums, and sending aid directly to these monsters. What does a condemnation out of Carney’s mouth mean in this context?
Next to nothing. After all, why should the US do anything more than lamely try to distance themselves from the rebels’ bloodthirsty jihad — when our own military does much worse as a routine matter? We launch cowardly drone attacks on distant targets, raining death on women, children, donkeys, and anyone or anything that gets in our way, killing thousands of civilians. We lock up prisoners — most of whom are innocent — without charges and keep them for years. Our decades-long campaign to carry out regime-change in Iraq resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, not only in the course of the fighting but also in the run-up to the shooting: sanctions murdered many thousands of children and old folks. And we justify it all with a barrage of lying propaganda — and brazen arrogance — which is lapped up by the “mainstream” media.
The real military heft of the rebel army is provided by Al Qaeda and its affiliates, while the “Free Syrian Army” is basically a myth: the reality is that the FSA is just a name, while the rebels’ military assets are located in a myriad of local militias under the control of radical Islamists. When Syrian newscaster Mohammed al-Saeed was kidnapped from his home in Damascus by rebel forces, his execution was publicized in a video with the Al Qaeda flag flying in the background. “May this be a lesson to all who support the regime,” the kidnappers declared. If this isn’t terrorism, then there is no real meaning attached to the term. The murder was claimed by the “Al Nusra Front,” a local gang of jihadists who openly support Al Qaeda. Al Nusra has been behind most of the really spectacular successes pulled off by the rebels: the suicide bombing in Damascus that killed top Ba’ath party officials, including the minister of defense; a raid on the heavily fortified Syrian Air Force building in Damascus and numerous other attacks on targets throughout the country.
Of course, no Westerner who supports the rebels could actually defend these atrocities, which is why Carney and his bosses are issuing empty “condemnations. Oh, but wait: we haven’t taken into account Walter Russell Mead, the noted foreign policy analyst and neocon-par-excellence, who writes:
“We think the human rights crusaders calling for the arrest of the rebels after these executions are barking up the wrong tree. Revolutionary Syria has no courts and no law at the moment. To speak of ‘crimes’ in circumstances like this is to make rhetorical noise, not to enunciate valid principles of law. Aleppo is in a state of nature, where there can be no crimes and the law of the jungle is pretty much all that applies.”
To warmongers of Mead’s ilk, who glories in his “hard-headed” invocation of the Law of the Jungle, the idea of moral law — a law above states, courts, and the apparatus of coercion — is just “rhetorical noise.” Glorious “revolutionary Syria,” where US tax dollars are going to fuel Washington’s regime-change operation in the Middle East, exists in “a state of nature” — a condition that underscores the real nature and goal of our policy in the region.
What the Americans are doing in Syria goes way beyond mere “war crimes.” In the past, acts deemed “war crimes” mostly consisted of random incidents, rather than pre-planned efforts to, say, exterminate an entire people. The Nazis are recalled with universal loathing precisely because of the exceptional character of their horrific crimes. The Communists, although less loathed, engaged in similarly large-scale atrocities. What is happening in Syria is the planned extermination of a nation, rather than a people. While it’s true US support for the rebels is a dagger aimed at the heart of Syria’s Christian and Alawite minorities, the effective elimination of these groups isn’t the goal of our regime-changers: their purpose is to atomize the Syrian state and produce a region in chaos. To divide, smash up, and remake the Muslim world — that’s the long-range goal. In the short term, however, they’ll settle for a blow struck at their principal enemy in the region. The rebels are but a lure, which this administration is hoping will reel in a really big catch: the Iranians.
The kidnapping of dozens of Iranian religious pilgrims in Syria — also claimed by Al Nusra — and the rebels’ contention that the pilgrims are in reality “Iranian Revolutionary Guards” sent in to aid the regime, is a clear provocation. Adding fuel to the fire, the rebels proclaim their intention to target any and all Iranians on Syrian soil: just the sort of tactic one might expect of a terrorist group, which murders indiscriminately. Note that in this account, Al Nusra is wearing its “Free Syrian Army” hat, another clue to the interchangeability of these supposedly separate groups.
The FSA/Al Nusra terrorist ethos is the perfect instrument for carrying out the Western agenda of regional chaos. While Jay Carney can issue all the condemnations he wants, the atrocities committed by America’s Syrian sock-puppets are the key to the success of our strategy in the Middle East. And as thousands die, Mead can effectively tell us to look the other way. After all, Syria is in a “state of nature” — thanks to US government support for the rebels — and the laws of man and God are suspended. Those laws will “return” if and when our sock puppets take Damascus.
This is the credo of the War Party, in all its insane Bizarro World glory: in articulating it so bluntly, the role of people like Mead is to justify mass murder — but is he really up to the job? He concludes his apologia for the jihadists with a call to escalate the slaughter:
“More blood must now flow in Syria. Peace will come when the winners are tired of killing and the losers are ready to submit. There will likely be more horrendous footage uploaded to the internet. It’s as if the infamous women knitting in the shadow of the guillotine during the French Revolution had cell phones and streamed the bloody pictures to a waiting world. This revolution, at least in part, is going to be televised, and we aren’t going to like what we see.”
It’s the War Party’s credo of death in a nutshell:
“More blood must flow”!
It must flow like a great river, “cleansing” pro-Assad neighborhoods in Syria, driving everything before it and welling up to break the dam of the Shi’ite regime in Iran, flooding the streets of Tehran in a scarlet rain. What’s interesting here is that Mead openly invokes the Jacobin spirit that animates the regime-changers, including himself. This is a development most of us will find a bit surprising, and maybe even shocking — except for the conservative philosopher Claes Ryn, who early on detected the Jacobin spirit in the previous administration’s foreign policy:
“Today communism has collapsed, but another universalist ideology, the new Jacobinism, has taken its place. A difference between the French and the new Jacobinism is that the latter has chosen not France but America as mankind’s savior.”
As Uncle Sam drags one nation after another to the guillotine, while the neocon Madame Defarges of the Twitterverse celebrate videos of summary executions, the real nature of the neocons’ “historic mission” — as professor Ryn puts it — becomes all too readily apparent.
The danger posed by the US to the rest of the world is more than the equivalent of the threat once posed by the totalitarian ideologies of National Socialism and its Communist blood brother. Like the Communists, the warlords of Washington have their paid agents in every country, who are hard at work carrying out their orders to pulverize entire nations and leave them drenched in rivers of blood. We see them at work in Syria, and, soon we will see them in Iran.
Onward, ever onward pushes the American juggernaut, with our Lilliputian allies following in our wake as we chart a course set for nothing less than world domination. Relentlessly aggressive, ruthless in its methods, and merciless when it comes to systematically targeting and eliminating its enemies, American imperialism is the main danger to peace and liberty on earth. None of us is safe until it is put out of business — no, not even American citizens, who can be killed by order of our commander in chief, a death sentence against which there is no defense, no trial, and no possibility of appeal.
Syrian expatriates in the US recount their impressions of the country's embattled president during his student days.
Chicago, IL - A story is told of a medical student, who attended the University of Damascus, Syria's top academic institution, in the 1980s. During one physical training exercise, he caught the ire of the instructor, who proceeded to call him "a son of a donkey".
The red-faced instructor soon realised who he was talking to and quickly apologised. The student was Bashar, second son and ultimate successor of then-President Hafez al-Assad. But the younger Assad took the insult "very lightly".
As Dr Zaher Sahloul recounted the incident involving his classmate of six years, the Chicago pulmonary specialist wondered how "a very average and humble person" turned out to become the architect of the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, which has already killed more than 17,000 people, according to the United Nations.
"You never imagine that the person who used to be your classmate in medical school, will be able to do this type of war crimes against humanity," said Sahloul, a native of Homs and president of the Syrian American Medical Society.
A NEW LOW
For Sahloul and his fellow Syrian Americans who are observing Ramadan, this year's holy month marks a new low in the close-knit community, many of whom have friends and family members caught in the 17-month old armed uprising. Their prayers, which range from asking for the protection of elderly parents who chose to remain in the bombed-out city of Homs to the swift ouster of the Assad regime from Damascus, reflect the anguish of a wounded nation, whose own president is attacking his own people.
"It's very difficult to celebrate the festivities of the month of Ramadan, while you have people in your family who are at any time at the threat of death," said Sahloul. "What's going on right now is a grave humanitarian situation." …MORE…
The State Department has an office that hunts German war criminals. Bureaucracies being what they are, the office will exist into next century when any surviving German prison guards will be 200 years old. From time to time the State Department claims to have found a lowly German soldier who was assigned as a prison camp guard. The ancient personage, who had lived in the US for the past 50 or 60 years without doing harm to anyone, is then merciless persecuted, usually on the basis of hearsay. I have never understood what the State Department thinks the alleged prison guard was supposed to have done–freed the prisoners, resign his position?–when Prussian aristocrats, high-ranking German Army generals and Field Marshall and national hero Erwin Rommel were murdered for trying to overthrow Hitler.
What the State Department needs is an office that rounds up American war criminals.
They are in abundance and not hard to find. Indeed, recently 56 of them made themselves public by signing a letter to President Obama demanding that he send in the US Army to complete the destruction of Syria and its people that Washington has begun.
At the Nuremberg Trials of the defeated Germans after World War II, the US government established the principle that naked aggression–the American way in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen–is a war crime. Therefore, there is a very strong precedent for the State Department to round up those neoconservatives who are fomenting more war crimes.
But don’t expect it to happen. Today, war criminals run the State Department and the entire US Government. They are elected to the presidency, the House, and the Senate, and appointed to the federal courts as judges. American soldiers, such as Bradley Manning, who behave as the State Department expects German soldiers to have behaved, are not honored, but are thrown into dungeons and tortured while a court martial case is concocted against them.
Hypocrisy is Washington’s hallmark, and all but the most delusional are now accustomed to their rulers speaking one way and behaving in the opposite. It is now part of the American character to regard ourselves as members of the “virtuous nation,” “the indispensable people,” while our rulers commit war crimes around the globe.
Whereas we have all been made complicit in war crimes by “our” government, it still behooves us to know who are the active war criminals in our midst who have burdened us with our war criminal reputation.
You can learn the identity of many of those who are driving the world into World War Three, while their policies result in the murder of large numbers of Arabs and Muslims in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, by perusing the signatures to the contrived letter to Obama from the neoconsevatives calling on Obama to invade Syria in order to “rescue” the Syrian people from their government.
According the the letter signed by 56 neoconservatives, only the Syrian government is responsible for deaths in Syria. The Washington sponsored and armed “rebels” are merely protecting the Syrian people from the Assad government. According to the letter signers, the only way the Syrian people can be saved is if Washington overthrows the Syrian government and installs a puppet state attentive to the needs of Israel and Washington.
Among the 56 signatures are a few names from the Syrian National Congress, believed to be a CIA front, and a few names from dupes among the goyim. The rest of the signatures are those of Jewish neoconservatives tightly allied with Israel, some of whom are apparently dual-Israeli citizens who participate in the formation of US foreign policy. The names on this list comprise a concentration of evil, the goal of which is not only to bring armageddon to the Syrian people but also to the world.
The letter to Obama is part of the propaganda operation to demonize the Syrian government with lies in order to get rid of a government that supports Hizbollah, the Muslims in southern Lebanon who have twice driven the vaunted, but cowardly, Israeli army out of Lebanon, thus preventing the Israeli government from achieving its aim of stealing the water resources of southern Lebanon.
Not a single sentence in the letter is correct. Listen to this one for example: “The Assad regime poses a grave threat to national security interests of the United States.” What utter total absurdity, and the morons who signed the letter pretend to be “security experts.”
How do we evaluate the fact that 56 people have no shame whatsoever and will lie to the President of the United States, telling him to his face the most absurd and obvious false things in order to advance their personal agenda at the expense of not merely the lives of Syrians but, by leading to wider war, of life on earth?
This same neocon architects of armageddon are also working against Iran, Russia, the former Soviet central Asian countries, Ukraine, Belarus, and China. It seems that they can’t wait to start a nuclear war.
You can find the names of some of humanity’s worst enemies here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article32021.htm
Stuck with a lackluster candidate, Tea Partiers focus their rage on the president.
Politics is an ugly business, the saying goes, and one aspect of that ugliness are the votes a devoted activist must cast for a candidate he doesn't much like. Take candidate Mitt Romney, for instance. But if the big-money donors of the right have anything to say about, those right-wing voters will be turning out for Mitt Romney on election day.
At a conference staged by David Koch's Americans For Prosperity Foundation, Tea Party activists from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. last weekend to hear famous right-wingers harangue President Barack Obama, and to learn what part they can play in securing the president's defeat. This year, the anti-Obama rhetoric was typically sharp, while mentions of the Republican presidential candidate were few and far between.
As Stephen Moore, columnist and member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, told a roomful of activists at a breakout session: "I'm not here to promote Mitt Romney; I think he's fine -- I don't think he's the world's greatest, most charismatic candidate...But I do think that this is such a critical, critical election...And none of us want to wake up on November 5th and think that we didn't do everything that we could to make sure that the community organizer goes back to community organizing."
It was a sentiment echoed by activists from around the country. Ken Aschenbrenner, a petrochemical salesman, rode a bus up from North Carolina, which is often described as a battleground state. I noted that the conference attendees didn't seem to be enthusiastic about Romney.
"No, they're not," he said. "And I'll be honest: he was not my first choice during the primary. However, he is who we have now, and we have to stand behind him. This election is not about electing Mitt Romney; it's about getting President Obama out and saving our country -- and recapturing our country."
Aschenbrenner, who is tall and thin, with a open face, would have preferred former U.S. senator Rick Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, both of whom sought to link Obama with encouraging dependence on the federal government, for a presidential candidate. Their candidacies may be over, but their words live on. A complaint heard more than once from the podiums at the conference was the administration's efforts to educate people on their eligibility for government assistance, especially food stamps.
The point wasn't lost on this activist. "I feel that the government is holding people down, and keeping them from what they need to do to get our economy going," he said. "Because when's the last time you ever got a job from a poor person?"
But what's done is done, and asked if he'll be working hard to turn out the vote for Romney, the North Carolinian replied, "Oh, absolutely."
The Wisconsin Effect
As the 2012 election campaign advances to its most frenzied leg, the contest comes down to a handful of states, the vaunted "swing" states such as Aschenbrenner's Tar Heel haven, as well as Virginia, Florida and Wisconsin, and a few others.
Electoral map and polling experts tend to downplay Wisconsin in that mix, seeing as the polls show Obama ahead of Romney by more than the margin of error. (The most recent Public Policy Polling survey has Obama up by 6 points.)
But Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was looking pretty good as the Dairy State's potential new governor in the recall election against Gov. Scott Walker, and he lost by a sizable margin. It's the kind of result that Americans For Prosperity, with allies such as Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition, hope to replicate across the nation on behalf of Mitt Romney in November.
At a breakout session titled "Battlefront Wisconsin: What Worked, and How to Repeat It," Luke Hilgemann, director of Americans For Prosperity's Wisconsin chapter, showed off the organization's winning ground strategy, which combined whiz-bang technology with the application of old-fashioned shoe leather, together with some tight messaging that was likely focus-group-tested.
AFP activists were outfitted with iPad-like tablet devices that featured artfully phrased survey questions respondents could answer on the tablet's touch screen. AFP foot soldiers took these tablets with them to households identified by the kind of micro-targeting strategies used by Web advertisers. (For more detail on these strategies, see our July report, Religious Right's Ralph Reed Field-Tests Plan to Defeat Obama.) Using the tablet's GPS feature, activists are directed to particular homes in a given neighborhood, based on the micro-targeted voter database that AFP has assembled.
Hilgemann said that Americans For Prosperity activists knocked on 75,000 doors and made 50,000 calls in the days leading up to the recall election.
As Ralph Reed, a former business partner of Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips, explained to activists at his Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in June, the polling that predicted a tight race in the recall election between Walker and Barrett was wrong because the polling models did not account for the uptick in right-wing turnout that vote-wranglers like Phillips and Reed made happen.
Phillips noted with pride that the AFP Wisconsin chapter now has "more grassroots activists than the Wisconsin teachers' union has members." And if Wisconsin activists could do all that, so could AFP activists around the country, officials told conference attendees throughout the two-day confab.
For many in attendance, the highlight of the weekend was a Friday night speech delivered by Scott Walker, whose career was shaped by Americans For Prosperity going back to the days when he was the elected executive of Milwaukee County. In his speech, Walker cast himself as a David against a labor-backed Goliath in the days when the state erupted in an uprising in February 2011, after Walker sent a bill to the legislature that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for the state's public employees.
The crowd cheered wildly.
Because of Walker's symbolic value as a dragon-slayer, the AFP audience loved him madly despite his limited talents as a speaker.
Of far greater talent was his warm-up act, the very conservative Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who won his seat with the help of Ralph Reed in 2010, just two years after Obama won the state by more than 6 points in the 2008 presidential election. (Progressives may recall McDonnell as the governor who backtracked on his initial support for a state bill that would have required women seeking abortions to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. McDonnell ultimately signed a bill that required a medically unnecessary ultrasound, but not one that had to be administered with a vaginal probe.)
Virginia is being touted as the state that could determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential race, much as Ohio did in 2004, or Florida might have, had the Supreme Court allowed it, in 2000. But current polls that show a functional tie between Obama and Romney don't reflect a potentially treacherous glitch for Romney: a third-party run by the popular right-wing Virgil Goode, a former congressman from Virginia's 5th District, who also served for more than 20 years in the state legislature.
Goode is running on the ticket of the Christian Reconstructionist Constitution Party, making him an attractive vehicle for a protest vote if, say, you're an evangelical Christian who thinks Mormonism is an anti-Christian cult. In a PPP poll released mid-July, Goode was polling in 9 percent in Virginia.
McDonnell, handsome and charming, is said to be short-listed as a potential running mate for Romney -- a move that could calm the itchy lever-fingers of Old Dominion's religious-right voters.
I caught McDonnell just after he delivered remarks to the AFP crowd at the Washington Hilton, as he left the hotel.
I asked if Goode's candidacy could harm Romney, McDonnell replied: "I'm sensing that the momentum is so clearly on the side of Mitt Romney that I don't think a few votes there will make a difference. Because this is a serious election. It's a serious time for our country. People are not gonna vote on who they like, or who sounds the best. But they're gonna vote on who they really believe can get results, to get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work -- that's the only thing that matters."
When asked if he would accept the vice presidential nomination if it was offered, McDonnell laughed, saying, "I can't answer that until I'm asked, so you'll have to talk with Mitt."
I pressed him a bit more: Had he been vetted?
"I'm not going to talk about that," McDonnell said. "They're goin' through the whole process right now, and it looks like the governor will have some announcements soon, and I'll wait to hear, too."
With that, turned to step into his waiting black SUV.
The next day, I asked activist John Corcoran, of Roanoke, Va., if he thought Goode could take advantage of anti-Mormon sentiment towards Romney. "Any of these third-party people are basically are tryin' to be spoilers, and I don't think that they'll get enough," Corcoran, an exterminator, said. "People are smart enough now that they know that they have to go with one of the major parties to really make their vote count...I think people are really focused on the economy. They're not really lookin' at Mormonism..."
He also thought that Romney's recent overseas trip did him good among Virginia voters, especially when Romney attributed the disparate economic fortunes of Israel and the Palestinian territories to difference of "culture."
The Chick-fil-A Factor
While the Americans For Prosperity foot soldiers, or "calvary" as they often refer to themselves, stand poised to do battle for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor always seems just shy of closing the deal. At the "Defending the American Dream" conference, activists embraced the cause of Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain that came under fire by LGBT activists after CEO Dan Cathy told a Georgia radio host that legalizing same-sex marriage is to invite "God’s judgment on our nation." When the full scope of the Cathy family's anti-gay activities was exposed by LGBT activists (including investment in discredited "ex-gay therapies"), Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to keep Chick-fil-A from opening stores in their cities -- effectively turning what had been a battle against bigotry into a cause celebre for business owners, who are well-represented in Tea Party outposts.
In the exhibition hall at the conference, self-published author Barbara Bluefield packaged her book in Chick-fil-A bags, and raffled off a $50 Chick-fil-A gift card. Every time Chick-fil-A was mentioned from a conference podium, a huge cheer when up from the crowd.
Yet Romney declined to take a position, telling reporters in Las Vegas on Friday that the Chick-fil-A controversy is one of those "things that are not part of my campaign," leading the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Ralph Reed to tell Politico that Romney is making a mistake. Romney still hasn't closed the deal with the conservative base, Reed said.
But Reed's old buddy, Tim Phillips thinks he knows one thing that would help. "I would never presume to give advice to anyone who's running for president, but if you're looking for a running mate, I think Gov. Scott Walker or Gov. Bob McDonnell..." The rest of his sentence was drowned out by the roar of the crowd.
It's hard to see how Romney wins without the boots on the ground offered by Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity and the strategic expertise of Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition.
You can rest assured his running made will be Koch-approved.
Posted by Ed Dickau at 7:06 AM